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Statewide publication includes research by biology professor and students

ISSUED: 27 September 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: Cecelia Mason

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Research by Dr. Laura Robertson, associate professor of biology, and three students that looks at what fungi is floating in the air in a college laboratory room has been published in the Proceedings of the West Virginia Academy of Science.

The paper, “Viable airborne fungi identified in a small town, public building in West Virginia,” describes 66 types of fungus in the air of a biology lab in the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center. The students collected the samples by placing petri dishes that contain media fungi grows in at select locations in the room for seven hours. The samples were incubated for three days then analyzed.

Robertson said the existence of fungi in buildings has been studied mostly in urban areas in places where there have been complaints due to health problems, water damage, or mold growth. Not much research has been done in rural locations in buildings where there have been no complaints.

“People spend a large amount of time indoors, where they breathe in microbes including fungi,” Robertson said. “In order to understand the relationship between fungi and indoor air quality problems, we need to know what fungi are present normally in the indoor air of non-complaint buildings, so we conducted a baseline survey of the normal airborne fungal community in a non-complaint building in a rural area.”

Jessica Kellison, a biology major from Renick, West Virginia, and Robert Harsh and Allison Beverlin, who each graduated from Shepherd with B.S. in biology degrees, co-authored the paper and helped with the research.

“What a great opportunity for students to be able to work in the lab and do original research and to then communicate their research through presentations and published papers,” Robertson said.

“Viable airborne fungi identified in a small town, public building in West Virginia” is available at the West Virginia Academy of Science webpage.

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